Curtis Mayfield

Love, Peace, Understanding

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The triple-disc Love, Peace, Understanding box set released by Sequel Records in the U.K. compiles many of Curtis Mayfield's best-known singles along with quite a few rare demos from the early part of his solo career and some seldom-heard latter-day songs. The second disc in the set, which features the early-'70s recordings Mayfield is best remembered for -- "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below," "Move on Up," "Freddie's Dead," "Superfly," "So in Love," and so on -- is wonderful, no doubt, but that's probably not the reason to seek out this collection. Most admirers already have these songs either on the original full-lengths or else on other, more succinct best-ofs like Rhino's single-disc The Very Best of Curtis Mayfield or Sequel's double-disc Move on Up: The Singles Anthology. If you want a true best-of featuring Mayfield's best solo work, those are the collections to own; not this one. However, there is a reason to splurge on this sprawling triple-disc set, and it's mostly because of the demos featured on disc one. Many of these 17 songs are not readily available in any format, though some would appear later in more polished versions, such as in the case of "Ghetto Child," for example, which would later appear on the Superfly soundtrack a few years later as "Little Child Runnin' Wild." In addition to these hard-to-find demos, the third disc on this box set is also somewhat of a curiosity, featuring songs from Mayfield's post-1975 work. Though this era of Mayfield's solo career wasn't his most accomplished by any means, characterized more by frustration and disappointment than success or brilliance, most listeners probably aren't familiar with these songs, so it's nice to have a distilled selection of latter-day work to sample rather than scour through those hard to find and often painful latter-day albums. So, in total, you get a little bit of everything on this box set: a disc of early demos, a disc of genius hits, and a disc of failed comeback attempts, all in chronological order. Plus, you get a handy booklet with helpful liner notes, explaining the story behind the demos and the latter-day comeback attempts.

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